Ferguson Shipyard: Nicola Sturgeon avoids apologizing to island communities over ferries scandal as railway come under public ownership


First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks to media as Scotland’s national train operating company ScotRail will no longer be privately owned by Dutch company Abellio and will enter public ownership. The Scottish Government announced its intention to nationalise the rail service in 2019 after four years of poor performance. (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)

The First Minister’s response comes as she answered a question posed by The Scotsman on whether an apology will be issued to those impacted by delays to ferries which have seen significant delays and over budget costs.

Speaking at Queen Street station in Glasgow on Friday morning, Ms Sturgeon told the paper: “I made very clear my regret to island communities in Scottish Parliament yesterday.”

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It comes after a report from Audit Scotland claimed the cost of two CalMac ferries could run to two-and-a-half times the original £97m price tag.

Ferguson Marine was awarded the contract for two vessels in 2015, but recent cost estimates have put the price of the ferries at more than £240m.

Asked whether the public should have faith in the Scottish Government delivering on public transport following the ferries scandal, Ms Sturgeon said: “I’m not seeking to diminish the ferry, rail problems with delays and cost over runs. I do think though there is an oversimplifying trying to read across what we are doing today.

“The nationalization of Ferguson shipyard hasn’t caused the problem with ferries. On the contrary, nationalization has been part of trying to resolve part of the problems with ferries.

“There are some unique challenges there that cannot simply be read across to the railways but that said we have a duty now that the railways are in public ownership.”

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Marking ScotRail officially coming under Scottish Government control after 25 years of privatisation, the First Minister told journalists it was a “significant day and moment”.

Ms Sturgeon said the move will aim to look at improvements in “continuity and reliability” of services as well as a focus on net zero as Scotland begins to venture into a post-pandemic world.

Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish Government has to ‘prove’ to the public that nationalising ScotRail is a good idea as she said change will not come “overnight”.

However, she stressed more direct ownership by ministers will make addressing issues easier.

On fares, Ms Sturgeon stressed that they were 20% lower in Scotland than in England, but added: “Affordability of travel on our railways is important and I think it’s an important part of what we want to do through public ownership.”

Transport minister, Jenny Gilruth, said the move was “historic”.

In a statement, she said: “This is an opportunity to deliver a railway which is for the benefit of the people of Scotland and everyone who travels by rail: customers, staff and stakeholders, not shareholders.”

The Scottish Tories have said change needs to be felt across the rail network for the project to be a success.

Graham Simpson, Scottish Conservative transport spokesman said: “We need to start to change things otherwise what’s the point in all this? We need quick action because, at the end of the day, we want to encourage people to start using trains, we want to get people back on the trains and out of their cars.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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